The owners of Five and Dime have rebranded the cafe to Fat Lulu’s at River Valley, serving small plates and plated desserts. The food section is handled by head chef Sam Chablani, alumni of Culinary Institute of America, who has experience in New York Michelin-starred kitchens and Singapore’s Lolla; while pastry chef Song is in charge of the desserts.
Their website writes that Fat Lulu’s is a “modern asian barbeque kitchen and dessert bar. This new concept incorporates bold Asian flavors, grilled meats & seafood, and a spirited dessert program.” To be honest, if I didn’t read the website, I wouldn’t have an inkling what Fat Lulu’s is about; the flavors are not entirely Asian, and it appears to be another tapas bar. There is nothing bold in the food we ate.
The food menu is divided into three sections: veg, seafood, and meat, with a total of 14 small plates. If you come in a group of 6, you can easily order everything on the menu.
From the veg section, although I strongly advised Mr Fitness not to order the pico de gallo salad ($9, above)—the burnt corn ($9) is the speciality—he insisted on ordering it for fibre. Pico de gallo is a Mexican salsa, that could be used in tacos or used a dip for nachos. Here, they peel carrots and julienne the rest to make into a too acidic, too sour salad, without any balance.
There are only 4 plates for the “Meat” section, and since our Buddhist friend doesn’t eat beef, we only ordered 1 plate from this section, the open beef ravioli ($22). It is very tasty. All the flavors work here: The sweet and tender shortribs braised in red wine, with a very sweet carrot cream, and cheesy parmesan.
Unfortunately, the spinach is over-cooked and lost its crunch. And I didn’t fancy it to be “open” like an open-faced sandwich; it is trying too hard to be different.
We did order 4 plates of seafood to make up for losing the beefy proteins. The burnt squid ($12) is not burnt, sliced too thinly which loses the mouthfeel, and not original. I had a better and cheaper version at Naughty Nuri’s.
I also didn’t enjoy the nori salmon ($17): salmon in a seaweed wrap with crumbs, drizzled over with yuzu sago. It didn’t taste good—but it didn’t taste bad—and it is too gimmicky.
The tuna tartare ($15) is worth ordering for its creativity. It’s paired with frozen pear (granita?) and avocado wasabi puree, which make it almost Mexican-meets-Japanese craziness. The good kind.
The best dish of the night, ikan bakar ($22), is a hamachi collar cooked exceptionally well, so moist within. The flesh-side is slathered with a creamy chilli butter, a smidgeon of spiciness, tasting almost like mentaiko; while the skin is bbq-ed to a delicious fatty crisp.
We vacillated between ordering one dessert, or two desserts or the 3-course tasting dessert menu ($35). In the end, Mr Fitness’s black face won; we ordered only one to cut down on our sugar intake. The black forest ($16, below) sounds the best on paper but turns out to be extremely underwhelming, just a black forest cake deconstructed to different bits. It’s boring, over-done, and not tasty. The nitrogen-frozen chantilly cream is a shtick and the chocolate ice cream melts rapidly.
There is a thin line between creativity and overeagerness. Creative dishes give sublimity; but overeager dishes are pretentious. And the latter is how the food comes across: overeager at times, and at others, boring. Don’t get me wrong. The food on the whole is ok, and palatable, but it’s unlikely we would return.
We spent $134 for 3 persons.
297 River Valley Road, Singapore 238338
+65 9236 5002
Sun-Th 6pm-11pm, F&Sat 6pm till late, Closed M
Overall rating: 3.125/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.